Sunday, December 12, 2010

Japanese cell phone charms

I have been thinking about posting about the cell phone charm madness that is quite evident to anyone that comes to Japan.  When people come here, they have an idea in their head of what they want to get for souvenirs. However, they quickly realize that magnets and keychains are not common, and in fact, a t-shirt with Japanese characters is super hard to find (bad english=easy; your size=not so easy).  Almost every Japanese person, young or old has a charm on their cell phone and maybe even more than one on their bag.   The cell phone charms range in size from small as a dime, to pretty darn big (size of a donut).  Some people have so many on their phone, it's a wonder, they can even find their phone.  I saw this girl on a train in Tokyo- and YES, they are all attached to her phone:

When it is time for me to make a trip back to the US, I get a lot of requests to bring back cell phone charms.  I also encourage visitors to bring them back as souvenirs.  Every touristy site, train station, or city has their own charm.  Not only will the charm be a memoir of a site you visited, but also it is just so very very Japanese to have one.  I started collecting charms from places we visited around Japan- they are cute and it's funny to remember what the area is famous for and how it is represented.  We went to Hokkaido a few years ago and a very popular cartoon character was a green guy with a "package".  It turns out his name is a similar sound to the Japanese word for the package and he represents the seaweed in the many lakes up there.
This one I got when I went to hike Mt. Fuji, a cartoon mountain with ice cap and smiley face, on the back it says 3776m for the height:

When we went to Nagasaki, I got several: one was for the dragon boat festivals they hold every year, one was for cheeseburgers (evidently they have some obsession with cheeseburgers there), and the other was for castella (Japanese pound cake they are famous for- I could not find it today, so it's not pictured).

You may notice the dragon charm I got is a Hello Kitty one, not only does every area represent their specialty on a charm, but there is ALWAYS a Hello Kitty donned in character.  Yesterday, I was in Osaka at the Sanrio store, the entire third floor was pretty much devoted to Hello Kitty cell phone charms.  I could not believe the thousands, yes, thousands of different ones there were.

This might be a bad shot, but it's from my cell phone so that's why, but imagine this times at least 5, that's how many were on the back and side wall:
Here's some cloth ones, all Hello Kitty sushi:

My neighbor was with me, looking for Christmas ornaments to give to her niece and nephew that would be visiting Japan for Christmas.  She ended up deciding to get the cell phone charms because they really represented Japan. They had all the Hello Kitty charms for every area of Japan.  We were able to find quite a few for our city, Kobe:

Pictured above are the airport, the ropeway my husband takes the kids on-dressed in the uniform of the baseball team, a park we go to a lot, the Harborland area of Kobe we frequent quite a bit, and the shinkansen.

Below are some others I got that I thought were so cute.

Don't you just love this one, it's for our new baby who will probably never get to live in Japan.

I stole my neighbor's idea and we hung them on our tree, they are lightweight and festive with their jingly bells:


  1. Hi There! I loved this post : ) I currently live here in Tokorozawa, Saitama with my husband and two kids, and we were just talking about the cell phone charms. We lived here for a year about 5 years ago and it seems like the students would have anywhere from 5 to 35 hanging from their bags. This picture is great, thanks for sharing!

  2. Haha. That was funny. Look, you learned to love collecting cell phone charms too! Just like the Japanese girl on the picture. :D Seriously, I love your collection! Japan is the home of Hello Kitty. It comes as no surprise that they have loads of Hello Kitty stuff out there. I love the concept of hanging those charms in a Christmas tree. It looks cute and they make a good substitute for Christmas balls too. Very nice!

    Nelson Tillmon

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